The numbers are a little low, but the quality is strong for the Guntersville High cross country team on the cusp of a brand new season.

There are about 24 runners on the team. They’ve been running 4 mornings a week at 5:45 throughout their summer break to get ready for the season. It starts Saturday morning with a run on a challenging course at Pisgah.

There’s a good chance at least 4 of the Guntersville seniors could end up getting scholarships when the season is done. It’s the senior campaign for Sam Moultrie, who’s been winning cross country meets for years now. Trent Mason came on strong last season and again in the outdoor track season in the spring.

“We really saw Trent’s times come down on his mile run in outdoor track,” Coach Chris Bashaw said. “He’s got a lot of prospects and will be taking some official visits to schools.”

On the girls side, Bradley Herbert and Kate Tully are being recruited. Both have a lot of potential heading into the senior seasons. Bradley was still overcoming an injury suffered a year earlier when the season started last year and Kate had to overcome mono before she could even begin her season.

Guntersville has enough middle school and freshmen boys to field a JV team this year. The girls are mostly 10th-12th graders and there will not be a JV team for them.

“We have a few more boys than girls, but it’s pretty even all the way across,” Bashaw said.

They’ve picked up a potentially strong runner on the girls’ side this year. Sarah Wright, a soccer player, has joined the team. She’s friends with some of the girls on the team.

“She’s never run a cross country meet but will find out Friday how to compete and what we need to work on going forward to best benefit her,” Bashaw said.

There are 7 runners on the team who have not run cross country before. He said all of those athletes will know where they stand after the weekend.

“The course we are running in Pisgah is not an easy course,” Bashaw said. “If we can finish well on a demanding course, it could give us momentum for the rest of the year.”

The Wildcats have a busy schedule (see other story). There’s only one week off in September and they will use that to work on their own course at Conners Island in anticipation of the Guntersville Invitational the next week.

Guntersville’s younger runners will compete at a meet in Asbury this season. The senior runners will be traveling to Disney’s Wide World of Sports to compete in a meet there.

“The Disney meet is something we wanted to do and we’ve been talking about it a couple years,” Bashaw said.

He was afraid it was going to be the same week as the Guntersville Invitational.

“That would not have worked for us because that meet makes money for us and you have to look at it in business terms too,” he said.

Last year, the Guntersville meet drew 26 teams. 19 teams have signed up so far and the meet is still 6 weeks away.

“Some coaches are saying we could have 40 teams this year,” Bashaw said.

Dalton and Dunwoody, both Georgia teams, are coming for the meet. Dunwoody is bringing 50 runners and will spend the night in Guntersville, meaning the city will see a little economic benefit from cross country.

“We said early on we wanted people coming to our meet to see what our town has to offer,” Bashaw said. “It’s also good to get some pretty good east Georgia runners in here to compete on our course.”

Guntersville is in a tough section in 5A but Bashaw predicted it will be an exciting year.

“We’ve worked hard all summer,” he said. “This senior group has been to state. The girls have finished 4th and the boys 5th. So they know what it takes and the challenges that are ahead. They have to get some of the younger runners to rise to the challenge to help them.”

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